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Friday, March 2, 2012

10 Most Bizarre Moments in Sports

In the early morning hours of February 28, 2012, the 3-Daystona finally came to an end.  The Great American Race was supposed to be run on Sunday, February 26, but rain pushed NASCAR's premier event into primetime on Monday, February 27.  This knocked FOX's regular Monday night lineup off the air.  As a result, thousands of casual fans were watching the Daytona 500 when Juan Pablo Montoya wrecked into a jet dyer during a caution on lap 160.  200 gallons of jet fuel spilled onto the track at Daytona International Speedway and exploded into fire.

This was truly one of the most bizarre incidents I had ever seen or even heard of in sports.  This led me to start thinking about the other most bizarre moments in sports history.  I'm sure there are plenty other worthy events, but this is what I came up with.


10.  Jeff Van Gundy vs. Alonzo Mourning's Leg.  The NBA has changed a lot in the last 15 years.  Back in the 1990's teams were expected to settle their own disagreements on the court.  Sure, there were suspensions after brawls, but fighting in the NBA was commonplace.  In the spring of 1998, bad blood had been building between the New York Knicks and the Miami heat for several years.  That year, they met in the Eastern Conference Finals.  In the Game 4, tempers erupted between Alonzo Mourning of the Heat and Larry Johnson of the Knicks.  Jeff Van Gundy, head coach of the Knicks at the time,  comes off the Knicks bench and latches on to Alonzo Mourning's ankles.  There are plenty of NBA coaches who are physically imposing men who can handle themselves in a fight.  Van Gundy is not one of those men.

(AP)


   




9. The Band Is  On The Field.   This is one of the most famous moments in college sports, but most of this blog's readers were in diapers when this happened on November 20, 1982.  For the last 20 years, the Stanford-Cal game has not been particularly interesting.  But, I've studied enough history to know that there is a world that existed before Netflix and Lady Gaga.  And, in that world, the annual meeting between Stanford and Cal was known as "The Game."  In 1982, John Elway was the quarterback at Stanford.  Elway had led Stanford down the field to take the lead with just a few seconds left on the clock.  It appeared that Stanford had won the game.  Stanford's band was so confident of that fact that they rushed onto the field.  But, Stanford still had to kick off.  And that's when the miracle happened.  "In the most amazing, sensational, dramatic, heart-rending, exciting, thrilling finish in the history of college football, California wins the Big Game over Stanford."  Okay, this might not actually be a better football play than the Music City Miracle, but this play makes the list because the Cal player that scores the winning TD actually spikes the ball on a trombone player.




8.  Randy Johnson Kills a Pidgeon ... or some other bird.  On March 24, 2001, one of our feathered friends learned that a baseball field should be a no-fly zone.  On this day, Randy Johnson was pitching for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a spring training game against the San Francisco Giants.  Just when the Big Unit was cranking up for a 95 mph fast ball, a bird flew through the danger zone.  The bird did not live to tell the tale.




7. End of a Legend.   In the 1978 Gator Bowl, legendary head coach Woody Hayes led his Ohio State Buckeyes into Jacksonville to face the Clemson Tigers.  With about two minutes to go, Ohio State was trailing by two points.  But, the Buckeyes were driving.  Then Gator's linebacker Charlie Bauman had the nerve to intercept a pass.  Then Bauman had the poor judgement to get tackled along the OSU sidelines.  Woody Hayes was beside himself with anger.  The head coach of one of the most storied programs in all of college football, punched Bauman in the throat.  Hayes was fired the next day before he had even boarded a plane to leave Jacksonville.  YouTube has plenty of footage of this incident.  This one is my favorite because it is accompanied by the Ohio State fight song.



6. Bobby Valentine in Mustache Disguise.  The Major League Baseball season in 162 games long.  That is a lot of games. And that's why we forgive manger tantrums that we'd never forgive from an NFL or NBA coach.  But, on June 9, 1999 Bobby Valentine got extra creative.  On that day, Bobby V was managing the New York Mets in a game against the Florida Marlins. In the 12th inning, Mike Piazza was called for catcher interference.  Valentine disagreed with that call and was ejected from the game for arguing.  Ejected means you have to leave the dugout.  But, Bobby Valentine was not content to watch the rest of the game from the clubhouse. Instead, he donned a fake mustache and a pair of sunglasses and re-entered the Mets dugout. Who won the game? I don't actually know. I do know that Valentine was fined $5,000 for wearing this Groucho Marx disguise.

Normal Bobby V
Under Cover Bobby V


5.  Monica Seles Stabbed.  Up till now, this list has been pretty funny.  But, what happened in Hamburg, Germany on April 20, 1993 was no laughing matter.  In he spring of 1993, Monica Seles was on top of the women's' tennis world.  Seles had won the French Open three consecutive times.  She had won the back-to-back US Open titles and had just won her second consecutive Australian Open when she headed to Hamburg, Germany for a run-of-the-mill event.  No one could have anticipated the violence that would occur on the court that day.  As Seles took a break during a side change, an obsessed and deranged Steffi Graf fan jumped out of the stands and stabbed Seles in the back.  I could not find a video of the actual stabbing.  This video is from the aftermath.  Seles returned to professional tennis in August of 1995.  Seles won the first tournament of her comeback, and she won the 1996 Australian Open.  But Seles never regained the dominant form she had before the attack in Hamburg.



4.  Rosie Ruiz Cheats at the Boston Marathon.  This would be much higher on the list if American sports fans actually cared about long distance races.  On April 21, 1980, Ruiz was interviewed as the winner of the Boston Marathon in the women's division.  Her time was 2 hours, 51 minutes and 56 seconds.  That would have been a record for a woman in the Boston Marathon.  Records are made to be broken, but Rosie Ruiz was an absolute unknown.  And, she didn't seem particularly sweaty or tired.  So, scrutiny ensued.  Turns out that Rosie actually wandered out of the crowd and joined the race with only a half mile to go.  Ruiz was initially given the gold medal and that fetching olive leaf crown because she had a valid marathon number and had validly qualified for the race.  Well, it turned out that qualifying wasn't on the up and up, either.  Further investigation revealed that Ruiz qualified via her time in the New York Marathon ... where she had commuted to the finish via subway.

















3. Fan Man.  It's been a long time since we have had one here in the United States, but a heavyweight championship fight is one of the greatest spectacles in a all of sports.  On November 6, 1993, Riddick Bowe was defending his heavyweight title against Evander Holyfield.  The fight was held at Ceasar's Palace outdoor arena in Las Vegas, NV.  Holyfield ended up winning the title that night, but the fight is most remembered for the bizarre moment that occurred in the 7th round.  During the middle of the fight, a man equipped with a parachute and a fan strapped to his back descended into the arena and got caught in the ropes.  If that wasn't bizarre enough, Riddick Bowe's corner added to the craziness.  Once "Fan Man" was caught in the ropes, Bowe's entourage gets hold of him and beats him senseless.  Fan Man later quipped, "It was a heavyweight fight, and I was the only guy that got knocked out."  Another bizarre aspect of the incident was that Riddick Bowe's pregnant wife fainted in the aftermath and left the event on a stretcher.




2. Ice Princess Shattered.  When you think of figure skating, you think of sequins and princess costumes.  You do not think of blood feuds.  Well, all that changed on January 6, 1994.  Nancy Kerrigan was America's ice princess.  Tonya Harding was her primary rival.  While Kerrigan was known for her grace and beauty, Harding was known for her athletic prowess and tough personality.  1994 was an Olympic year.  Typically, the top two finishers at the U.S. Championships would be chosen to compete for Olympic gold.  After a practice session at the U.S. Championships, disaster struck Kerrigan.  And the disaster came at the hands of Shane Stant.  Stant struck Kerrigan in the knee with a collapsible police baton.  Although Harding herself was never linked to the attack, it was later learned that the attack was arranged by Harding's ex-husband Jeff Gillooly and his friend Shawn Eckardt.  Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the U.S. Championships due to the knee injury.  Harding won the gold at the U.S. Championships.  But, the U.S. Olympic Committee still named Kerrigan to the Olympic team in favor of a very young Michelle Kwan.  Kerrigan was fully recovered seven weeks later and won the silver medal at the Lillehammer games.




1. The Bite Fight.  One of the best things that can happen in sports is when a clear good guy faces off against a clear bad guy.  The Holyfield-Tyson fights were classic examples of this.  The Holy Warrior versus the Baddest Man on the Planet ... and a convicted rapist.  In 1996, Holyfield shocked the world when he knocked Tyson out to win the WBA heavyweight championship.  The rematch was held on June 28, 1997.  In the third round of the fight, Tyson apparently lost his mind.  Tyson came out to start the round without a mouthpiece.  The referee spotted this and rectified the situation before the fight resumed.  But, Tyson was not deterred.  With forty seconds left in the round, Tyson bit Holyfield's right ear.  Tyson was docked two points for the infraction, but doctors determined that the fight could continue.  Then Tyson immediately goes after Holyfield's left ear.  This time, Tyson bit off a significant piece of Holyfield's ear and spit it out in the ring.  A melee ensued.  Tyson was disqualified, and Holyfield won the fight.  For those of you counting at home, this is the second appearance on this list for Evander Holyfield.  If you're paying very close attention, it's also the second appearance for referee Mills Lane.




And thus concludes Banshee Blog's count down of the most bizarre moments in sports history.  If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment or email at wildbanshee@hotmail.com.